“Will you marry me, GC?”
Those were the last words I expected to ever hear from Becky. When I said I’d do anything to fix what I had done to our friendship, I didn’t know that she would demand so much.
“You want to marry me? But I don’t love you. I mean, I do, but like a sister,” I sputtered, incredulously.
“A sister. You have a really messed up way of showing affection to a ‘sister!”
“You know what I mean,” I said. “Why do you want to marry me anyway? Don’t you hate my guts? You won’t even accept my apology.”
“Excuse me for feeling less than sisterly toward you,” Becky sneered at me. “I don’t really want to marry you anyway, but I thought you might want the option.”
I looked at her like she was crazy. Then she dropped another bomb on me. “I’m pregnant, GC.”
My heart stopped. I sat down heavily in the office chair.
“Pregnant. Knocked up.” Becky laughed cruelly. “You’re going to be a fucking father. You were picturing Alex who wouldn’t have minded if you hadn’t used a condom, but you were with me and you forgot what happens when a man and a woman don’t use protection.”
“But,” I protested, “We used a condom! I got a whole box of them.” I distinctly remembered using one.
Again she laughed. “Great planning, but in the moment you didn’t use one. You just bent me over and impregnated me!”
She was right, I had. Dear Lord. No wonder she was so furious with me. I had been so caught up in trying to deny myself, that I didn’t think of anything, not even the most basic protection that I should have used. I rubbed at the back of my neck.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked Becky. “Is that why you want to get married? For the baby?”
“I don’t want to be a single mother. I’m not ready to be a mother at all!” Becky threw her hands in the air. “Look, GC, I understand that you don’t love me. You never did. But now we’re going to have a baby together.”
“But Becky, that’s no reason to get married,” I argued. “I’ll do anything you need. I’ll take you to the doctor. I’ll give you money. I’ll even keep the baby after it’s born if you aren’t ready to be a mom. But I don’t think we should get married. It wouldn’t be right.”
“You know, I can just get an abortion,” Becky said, turning away from me. “That will solve the whole dilemma.” I gasped in shock.
“It’s my decision, GC.”
“But the baby is both of ours.”
Becky didn’t say anything to that, just stared at me. I knew that if she’d made up her mind to terminate the pregnancy, there wasn’t much I could do to stop her. Maybe I could get a court order or something, but that would just make all of this even worse.
Needing to do something to stop her, I said, “Ok. If you want to get married for the baby, I’ll do it.”
Becky just blinked at me. I could tell that she was wrestling with all kinds of emotions. In the end, I saw that anger won.
“Fuck you GC. I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man.”
“But the baby!”
“I’ll deal with it GC. I’ll let you know what I decide when I’ve decided.” She turned to go.
“No. I can’t talk to you anymore, GC.”
“But…please,” I implored her, “don’t do something you’d regret just because you hate me. There’s an innocent life involved. It’s connected to both of us. Please don’t do it.”
As soon as she left, I called Alex and got his voice mail. He was working at the Equestrian Center.
“Alex, it’s GC. Becky just told me she’s pregnant. You have to convince her to keep the baby. God, Alex. Don’t let her do anything foolish. She’ll listen to you.”
I hung up, and went back out to find TJ. He was working on the truck.
“What’s up, GC? You look like someone took a dump in your Corn Flakes.”
“Becky just told me she’s pregnant.”
“Fuck. No kidding? And it’s yours?”
“Yeah. Who else’s would it be?”
“Congratulations, I guess.”
I sighed. “No. She doesn’t know if she’s keeping it.”
“What?” TJ looked as flabbergasted by that as I felt. “What are you going to do? You can’t let her get an abortion.”
“It’s her decision.”
I could tell that TJ was going to argue, but our discussion was cut short by the alarm. We dropped everything and headed out.
It was another arson fire. I swear the arsonist was getting bolder. This time he or she set fire to the courthouse. TJ and I arrived on scene to find the lobby engulfed in flames. People were still in the building, though most had already escaped. We rushed in, of course, and managed to contain the blaze and get everyone out with only minor injuries and smoke inhalation. There were times, though, as we were fighting in the heat and flames, that I thought we might not win.
Afterwards, I knew what I had to do. I went straight over to Becky’s house and pounded on the door. It was the middle of the night, but I didn’t care.
“What are you doing here GC?” Mr. Fairbanks opened the door for me when he realized who was there.
“I have to talk to Becky. Sorry to wake you.”
I went past him into the house. Mrs. Fairbanks was there, looking annoyed that I had come at such an ungodly hour.
“What are you doing here, GC?” she echoed her husband. “It’s the middle of the night.”
“Sorry. I came to talk to Becky. I wanted to ask her to move in with me.”
“Is this because of the baby, GC?” Mrs. Fairbanks asked. I told her it was.
“Well, it would be better if you were getting married, but Becky told me why you aren’t doing that.” I wondered if Becky had told her parents everything about me. I didn’t know. I really didn’t care.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Fairbanks, but I do want to be a father to the baby.”
“What are you doing here,” Becky asked from the top of the stairs. Clearly she had heard me come to her door and talk to her parents.
“Life is short,” I told her, as she came down. “Too short to be counted anything less than precious.” I touched Becky’s stomach. “I want this baby. I’ll do anything for it.”
“I’m still not going to marry you, GC. It was a foolish thing to suggest,” Becky told me. “I used to want nothing more than to be your wife, but now I deserve better than you, GC. I deserve someone who loves me.”
“I know you do, Beks. I always wanted that for you.”
“So what are we going to do about the baby?” she asked me, wearily.
“I think we should live together,” I suggested.
“And live where? TJ’s basement?” Becky looked at me like I was crazy.
“Yes. No. I don’t know. TJ has a spare room upstairs. We’ll figure things out.”
“It’s a crazy idea, GC. Does your brother know you’re offering up his rooms to random people?”
“I’ll tell him. It won’t be forever. You and I can work something else out later. After the baby is born.”
So Becky moved into TJ’s house. Roselyn was gracious enough and supportive enough to welcome her even under such odd circumstances. Becky, who avoided me most of the time, was a help around the house for Roselyn. She actually gave Ros a break with Theo, which surprised me. She also quit her job and started writing, another surprise to me.
“I hated working at the Business Park,” she told me. “I have all this time on my hands. I figured I’d see if I could actually write a book.”
I had had no idea that writing had been a dream of Becky’s. She had also been in the Journalism Club with Barbara. I knew that, but I didn’t know the extent of her involvement. I thought Barbara had joined the club first. In actuality it was Becky.
Slowly, as Becky’s pregnancy progressed, we came to a peace with each other. Becky started talking to me, and she allowed me to be as involved as I wanted with her pregnancy. I surprised myself in wanting to be really involved.
It fascinated me, the life she was carrying. I loved feeling the baby move. I sometimes talked to it.
“You know the baby doesn’t know it’s you,” Becky scoffed at me when I told the baby how excited I was to meet him or her. I told it how much I was looking forward to being a Dad.
I gave the baby a little pat, earning a kick that made Becky suck in her breath. “Damn it GC. That hurts.”
Thankfully, everything with Becky’s pregnancy was normal, and after nine months, our daughter Lydia was born. I got the call to meet Becky at the hospital while I was at work. Luckily, we hadn’t had a major fire or disaster to deal with that day. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been responding to an alarm when I got the call from Roselyn.
We brought Lydia back to my apartment where I had set up a small crib next to my gym equipment. Maybe it wasn’t an ideal situation, but Becky and I still hadn’t resolved how we were going to handle the raising of our child. Becky lived in TJ’s spare room upstairs. She was paying her rent by helping babysit for Theo while Roselyn was working.
In all of the time Becky was pregnant and living with me, I did not see Alex. We both decided it would be too awkward hanging out together while Becky was living with me. We didn’t want to upset her while she was pregnant. Our only contact was on the phone or chatting over the computer.
Sometimes all we talked about was our work. I told Alex about the arson investigation that was still on-going.
“It’s crazy, Alex. I don’t know why we can’t catch this guy. Every time Uncle Julian and the police think they have a pattern established, the guy does something that doesn’t fit. They can’t get clues from the scenes most of the time and the clues they do find, don’t make sense.”
“How do you know that all of the fires are arson?” Alex asked me. I explained the difference between a natural fire and one set by someone. “Sorry,” I said when I finished my explanation. “I know this is boring stuff. You don’t care about burn patterns and origin points.”
“No, but I care about you.”
I blushed. Alex was always saying things like that. I think the absence from each other actually made us become closer. The more I spoke to Alex, the easier it was to flirt with him. I suppose talking to him over the phone allowed me to experiment a bit. Flirting was new for me.
So was cyber dating. ‘Cybering’. I had no idea that chatting could get that steamy. I was sort of glad I didn’t have the ability for Alex to see me on video while we were ‘cybering’. I felt like an idiot, but damn it was hot. I was more than ready to actually go out on a real date with Alex. Now that Lydia was born, I really hoped that we could.
We were going to test things out by having Alex come over to see the baby. I know that Becky would have no problem with her brother meeting his niece, but I figured it would be a good way to see her reaction to me being in the same vicinity as Alex. It would also be interesting to see how TJ felt about it.
TJ had never indicated he was uncomfortable with my sexual orientation, but I had never really gone out with a guy, either. It might be awkward around the firehouse if others found out I was gay and didn’t like it, but I figured I’d have to cross that bridge when it came.
When Alex came over, Becky was downstairs feeding Lydia. TJ answered the door. Roselyn was making supper for all of us.
I bound up the stairs as soon as I heard the doorbell. I saw Alex and TJ exchanging a friendly handshake. It didn’t appear awkward, so I took it as a good sign.
“Hi Alex,” I gave him a hug. I really couldn’t stop myself and didn’t realize that I had done it until I pulled away and he smiled at me. I felt my cheeks heat.
“Um,” I cleared my throat. “Becky will be up in a minute. She’s feeding Lydia. Doesn’t like to do it with an audience.”
“Roselyn’s almost got dinner ready. How ‘bout we sit down,” TJ said. He took the chair, leaving me and Alex to sit together on the couch. My brother gave me a knowing smirk when he caught sight of my blush. I guess TJ was just fine with me and Alex. He was loving this.
I have no idea what we talked about while we waited for Becky and Roselyn. Sports? The arsonist? School? No clue. I sat by Alex and tried hard not to look at him or touch him.
Becky came up when dinner was ready. She did not bring Lydia, saying that she’d fallen asleep right after Becky had burped her.
“She’s the most easy-going baby,” I said proudly.
“Just wait,” Roselyn and TJ said together and we all laughed.
After dinner, Becky brought Lydia upstairs for Alex to hold. He was great with her, supporting her head just right. Cradling her like a pro. I was shocked.
“She has your eye color,” I blurted, seeing Alex holding my daughter. Becky gave me a sharp look.
“She has my hair,” Becky said.
“A lot of Fields had red hair,” TJ said to the room at large.
“She looks more like a Fairbanks than a Fields,” I said, noticing that the baby seemed to have Alex’s nose. She also had the pale skin that both Becky and her brother had.
We all coo’d over the baby until she got fussy, still wanting to sleep. Becky took her back downstairs.
“Want to go to the Hole,” Alex asked me after she’d left. “I’ll buy you a beer. A new dad beer.”
“I don’t know,” I hesitated. “Becky might not want me to go.”
“It’s not like you and Becky are married, GC,” TJ said just as Becky came up the stairs. I couldn’t have timed his response more perfectly.
“I wouldn’t marry GC even if he wasn’t gay,” Becky glared at me. While we’d come to a sort of peace, there were times when she remembered to be mad at me. “What were you talking about that I wouldn’t like if we were married?”
“I was going to go to the Hole with Alex to get a beer,” I said, trying not to sound like I was asking her permission. Becky didn’t rule me, but Alex had made it clear that if she didn’t want us to go out, we never would.
Becky looked at Alex, then at me. I could tell that she wanted to say I couldn’t go. I could also see that she was hurt I wanted to go. I remembered her once telling me that everyone always liked Alex better than her. I could see that jealousy in her still.
“Just go,” she finally said. “Don’t get drunk. You’ve got the 2am feeding tonight. I’m getting a full night’s rest.”
So we went to the Hole. Though it was the same place as always, it felt different this time. Alex and I were on a date. A real one. I wasn’t sure how to act. What to say.
“GC?” Alex finally noticed my awkwardness. “What’s wrong with you? Are you worried about Lydia?”
I hadn’t been until he mentioned something. I realized it was the first night I’d spent away from her. I shook my head. “No. Becky’s with her and TJ and Roselyn. I’m sure she’s fine.”
“Then what’s up? You’re acting funny. Relax.”
“Sorry. I guess I’m nervous.”
Alex laughed and I joined him. I had no reason to be stressed about being with him. Just then, Jake, the boy who had waited on us before, came up and took our order.
“Hey, GC,” he said. He nodded at Alex. “What do you want?”
“Just a beer,” I said.
“Me, too,” Alex ordered.
We talked about Lydia until Jake brought our drinks back to the table. He also sat down some onion rings. “These are from Mick. He says he’s glad to see you back.”
When Jake left, Alex smiled at me. “I had no idea that you knew the mixologist so well here.”
“I don’t. He and Jake, that’s the kid, own the place, I think. I suppose he sort of feels like he knows me because of that time I got so wasted here. Jake and Mick made sure I got home. Also Mick knows that I’m a fireman.”
“Must be nice. No one ever gives me snacks for being a vet.”
“You get all the free dog food you could want, right?” We both laughed. Alex had adopted a dog. I had yet to meet it.
“He’s a Dalmatian. I called him Spots.”
“I know, but I couldn’t resist.”
“Why did you get a Dalmatian?”
Alex gave me a look that made my toes curl. “I saw him and thought of this sexy fireman I know. I thought if I couldn’t be with the fireman, then I could at least get a fire dog.”
Suddenly I remember all of the flirting we’d done and the sexy cyber dates we’d been on. Now I was sitting across from him in person and I realized that if we wanted, we could do some of the things we had only spoken of doing before.
“Let’s go back to your place,” I said before I could stop myself.
“Are you sure, GC?” Alex asked. It would be my first time with a guy and Alex knew it. It was one thing to be intimate over the phone or internet, quite another in person, but I knew I wanted Alex. I wanted to touch him and have him touch me. I wanted to kiss him, feel his tongue in my mouth.
“I’ve never been more sure.”
So we got up to leave.
“I’ll get our tab,” Alex told me. We’d thought we’d stay awhile, so we’d given Jake Alex’s card.
“I’ll call TJ and let him know that I might not make that 2am feeding. He’ll take care of it so that Becky doesn’t know,” I said.
Alex chuckled and nodded at me. He brushed my arm as he went to the bar. I felt goose bumps raise like a promise of what was to come.
Smiling hugely, I started going out and passed a guy with impossibly dyed yellow hair. Other than the hair, I probably would have ignored him, but I heard him call out, “Alex!” as I passed him.
I froze. As soon as he spoke I guessed who he was. Alex’s name came out “Aleeks” because of the guy’s thick, French accent.
My guess was confirmed when Alex turned from the bar, startled. “Rene! What are you doing here?”
That was a damned good question.